by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer
CHICAGO (CBS) — A day after accusing Uber of offering to pay off a group of black ministers to get them to oppose her proposed $40 million rideshare tax hike, Mayor Lori Lightfoot changed her tune somewhat, saying the rideshare giant offered tens of millions in “investments” as part of a “divide and conquer strategy.”
“My understanding, as I said yesterday, is that they offered up $54 million in, I’ll put in air quotes ‘investments,’” Lightfoot said Thursday morning. “They’re trying to divide and conquer, and pit one group against another. We’ve seen that happen historically in Chicago. We’re not going to tolerate that.”
A day earlier, Lightfoot left reporters at City Hall stunned when she accused Uber of offering black ministers a payoff to help get the mayor to back off her plan to increase the congestion tax the city charges to rideshare services.
The mayor’s claim about Uber came when she was asked about an alternative tax plan Uber had floated, which would also apply to taxi companies.
“Is this the one where they’re paying off black ministers by $54 million – that one? Or is this a new one?” Lightfoot said Wednesday.
Uber has vehemently denied the mayor’s payoff claim, calling it “completely, factually inaccurate.”
The company has said it has offered a counter proposal to the mayor’s tax plan, which it says would raise significantly more tax revenue than Lightfoot’s.
“The mayor is entitled to her own opinion, but not her own facts. Weeks ago, we shared a proposal that would have raised $54 million more for the city – she is confusing this figure,” an Uber spokesperson said in a statement on Wednesday.
On Thursday, the mayor said news reports about her original payoff claim were “not quite accurate,” but she also seemed to acknowledge that Uber’s $54 million proposal was offered as a competing tax plan, though she
“Every single proposal that they’ve put out, not one of them – whether it’s the $54 million, or a more recent counterproposal – not one of them do they allow themselves to be regulated and deal with the congestion. They offer nothing to deal with congestion,” Lightfoot said.
The mayor said Uber is spreading misinformation about her rideshare tax plan.
“What I understand is that Uber, in an effort to try to divide and conquer, and use scare-mongering tactics among black communities, propagated a false narrative; which is that the proposal that we have to regulate rideshare is going to disproportionately impact, in a negative way, black and brown communities, and that’s just utterly false,”
Lightfoot said the issue is not about the black ministers, but about ridesharing companies pushing back on efforts to regulate their industry.
“This is about Uber and Lyft trying to avoid any kind of regulation, and putting out a false narrative that they are somehow not responsible for the unbelievable congestion that we see every single day in the downtown area. They are. Those cars are their drivers, and they have not been regulated, and they’re going to be,” the mayor said.
Lightfoot said she remains confident aldermen will approve her rideshare tax plan, and black ministers support it after her office explained the details of the plan.
The mayor noted her plan would actually reduce the taxes on shared rides that neither end nor begin downtown, and she said the majority of rideshare trips in the neighborhoods are shared rides, not solo trips, which would see the biggest increases under the mayor’s plan.